The Pakistan government Tuesday decided to dissolve the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) following the merger of the restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In a historic move, the National Assembly voted in May in favour of a constitutional amendment to merge the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
All major political parties had supported the bill, with 229 lawmakers voting in its favour and only one voting against it.
“After the merger of FATA, the provincial government will look over the affairs of the tribal areas which is why we have decided to dissolve the Ministry of SAFRON,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Geo News.
“There are over 1.7 million Afghan refugees in the country who are our guests and we want them to be safely repatriated,” Chaudhry said.
According to officials, the government also decided to close down the FATA Secretariat.
“The Ministry of Interior overlooks the issues of refugees which is why the four Afghan commissionerates and chief commissioner for Afghan refugees which were reporting to the Ministry of SAFRON will now be under the interior ministry,” they said.
“A decision will be taken soon regarding whether the Levies and Khasadar force should be under the federal or the provincial government,” they added.
Since the days of the British Raj, the territory has long been seen as a backwater ruled by hostile tribesman that was kept as a buffer zone between Afghanistan and the settled territories that became Pakistan.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the tribal belt along the Afghan border became a notorious focal point in the global war on terror, with Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters operating in the area with impunity.
The US has repeatedly accused Pakistan of allowing the tribal areas to host safe havens harbouring militants fighting in Afghanistan – an allegation Islamabad has consistently denied.